No matter how little you run, you probably don’t do it to destroy your body. And yet lots of people who run skip stretching, the all-time best way to prevent injury, reduce muscle soreness, and help you run more efficiently.
Even if you only clock a couple of miles, you should still stretch before and after running, according to Debora Warner, founder of Mile High Run Club a fitness studio dedicated to running in New York City.
Before you get started, pregame with a two- to three-minute jog, then transition to the active dynamic stretches below, which are designed to both loosen up the joints and continue to warm up the muscles. Perform each for 30 seconds before you move on to the next one. Then get on with your run.
When you’ve spent, spare 90 seconds to give your legs some TLC and prevent annoying muscle soreness. (You’re welcome.)
Do These Before You Run:
How to do them: Stand up straight with your feet hips-width apart and your feet facing forward. Extend your left leg straight out in front of you as you reach toward your left toes with your right arm and extend your left arm out behind you. Release your left leg to the floor, then extend your right leg out in front of you, reaching toward the toes with your left arm and extending your right arm out behind you. Continue to alternate legs and reach with the opposite arm.
Where you’ll feel it: Your back, abs, butt, and hamstrings.
2. Jumping Jacks
How to do them: Stand up straight with your feet together and your arms at your sides. From this position, hop your feet out to the sides as you open your arms out to the sides and bring them together overhead. Jump back to starting position and drop your arms to complete one rep.
Where you’ll feel it: Your back, shoulders, and legs.
3. Star Stretch
How to do them: Take a wide stance with both feet pointed forward and your arms extended in an overhead “V.” Without dropping your left arm, bend from the waist to bring your right fingertips to your left toes. (If that’s not happening, just try to get as close as you can.) Come back up to starting position. Without dropping your right hand, use your left hand to reach down toward the right toes. Come back to starting position to complete one rep and continue to alternate sides.
Where you’ll feel it: Your shoulders, back, and hamstrings.
4. Heel Taps
How to do them: Take a wide stance with your feet pointed forward and your shoulders stacked over your hips. From this position, bring the right heel to meet the left hand in front of your body. Return to starting position, then repeat on the opposite side, this time bringing the left heel to meet your right hand in front of the body. Continue to alternate sides.
Where you’ll feel it: Your butt and lower back.
5. High Knees
How to do them: With soft knees and your elbows bent at 90-degree angles, stand on your left foot as you drive your right knee up to hip-height, and your left hand up to shoulder-height. Hop to your right foot as raise your left knee to hip-height and drive your right hand up to shoulder-height. Continue to alternate arms and feet in quick succession.
Where you’ll feel it: Your shoulders, butt, core, and legs.
Do These After You Run:
6. Quad Stretch
How to do it: Stand with your feet together, your toes pointing forward, and your shoulders stacked over your hips. Kick your right heel back to your butt and use your right hand to reach around the outside of the foot and pull it toward your body, keeping the knee pointing down and hips square. Extend your left arm straight up for balance. Hold for up to 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.
Where you’ll feel it: The front of your thighs.
7. IT Band Stretch
How to do it: Stand with your feet about hips-width apart and your feet pointing forward. Cross your left foot behind your right foot, twist toward the right, and bend from the waist to reach straight down toward your left heel. Hold for up to 30 seconds, then cross your right foot behind your left foot, and bend from the waist to reach toward your right heel.
Where you’ll feel it: The muscles that run from your butt through the outer thigh and knee.
8. Hamstring Stretch
How to do it: Take a wide stance and extend your arms straight out in front of you. Bend your knees to sit your hips back in a low squat as you stretch your arms as far forward as you can, keeping your spine completely straight.
Where you’ll feel it: The back of the thighs and butt.